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"Q & A" FROM CBS.COM---2000

"Hot Stuff"


It was a hot and humid summer day in New York City when CBS.com caught up with PAUL LEYDEN for a getting to know you chat. Despite the heat, the Australian actor was personable and open about his mysterious role of Simon Frasier on As the World Turns, his co-stars, his family and his hopes for the future.

CBS.com: How is it going at ATWT?

PAUL LEYDEN: It's going well. It's good because my schedule has kind of quieted down a little bit. Finally, I can just chill out and get to see the city and do some touristy things, which I haven't had a chance to do yet.

CBS.com: Have you lived in the States before?

PAUL LEYDEN: No, not before the show. This is the first time I've been over here. I came over in early January for the call back audition. This is it - the first time I've been to the States, and definitely the first time I've lived here. It's all very new!

CBS.com: How do you like living in New York?

PAUL LEYDEN: I think it's great. I love New York. New York is just everything it's cracked up to be - it's a big, bustling, energetic city and there's always something happening. Come summer, it's a little depressing that it's so sweltering hot and there's no escape. There are no pools around; the closest ocean you can swim in is about an hour away. I think that's going to get to me. It's one of those things that you have to adjust to, I guess. But apart from that, I'm having a great time in New York.

CBS.com: How did you land the role?

PAUL LEYDEN: I was back home in Melbourne doing an audition for a new primetime series. I was on about my third call back for that when my agent called up and said they want you to put an audition down for a CBS TV show that's shot in New York. I said, "That sounds pretty cool." I had no idea what the show was. I had a feeling it was a soap, but I wasn't sure exactly. So I did the audition at a studio back home, and my agent sent it over and [I] thought nothing else of it. I didn't really care what happened. [Laughs] You know, because I was booked out anyway [with the local show]. Then this job came through; they wanted to fly me out for a call back audition. And that's when everything sort of took a new direction. All the contract stuff had to be worked out before I was flown over because if I agreed to come over for the call back audition and if I got the job, then it was sort of a given that I'd take it. It's pretty hard making decisions about what you're going to do when you haven't even got the job yet. I decided that despite the fact that the show back home was going to be really terrific, to be given an opportunity possibly of working in the States and living in New York was too good to pass up. So, I came over for the call back audition, thought I bombed it completely, pretty much tripped over the carpet and hit my head on the furniture. [Laughs] I must have done something right...God knows what! I went back home and two weeks later, they called up and said, "Yeah, you got it."

CBS.com: You screen-tested with Martha Byrne (Lily/Rose). What was your first impression of her?

PAUL LEYDEN: She was great. I didn't know this at the time, but she had been trying to audition for this role for about nine months. She'd seen about 35 or 40 people who had to do the same audition scene and kiss her at the end of the scene. We were the last lot of Australians that they had flown over. So, I think she was at the end of her tether with the whole audition process, but she was so professional and really giving. She was terrific. And she's a great kisser! [Laughs]

CBS.com: Simon is very mysterious. What can you tell us about him?

PAUL LEYDEN: Well, I'm kind of learning about him everyday as well. Because we don't have a breakdown of what's going to happen to the character or the story more than a week in advance, you kind of just continually learn about the character you're playing day by day. He did start off quite mysterious and, obviously, as a bit of a con artist trying to weasel his way into Lily's life somehow to track down this diamond. I guess that was his main priority. But as the weeks go by, that's becoming less and less important as his relationship with Lily grows into one of great affection, I think. [She's] someone that he really enjoys being around, someone who can handle him and sort of give it right back to him as good as he gives. You know what I mean? Every single time I'm on the floor playing this character, I'm learning so much and trying to take risks with the character, trying to make him fairly bold. Obviously, some of them pay off and some of them don't. That's what's good about this medium of TV, you do it, it's over, then you go on to the next [scene] and you try to make up for something that you didn't like in the last scene. That sort of got off the question a little bit, didn't it? [Laughs]

CBS.com: Were you given a lot of background about Simon coming in?

PAUL LEYDEN: No. When I got the job, I had to fly out of Australia as soon as the Visa came through, which took about a week. They FedExed about three scripts. I flew in on Wednesday morning. I got into New York at about two o'clock in the morning. I had a meeting with [Executive Producer] Chris Goutman at about 9:30, and I was on the floor shooting by about ten to ten. [Laughs] So the background information I got on him was during that twenty-minute conversation with Chris. I don't think they really knew where he was going or what he was going to be doing because the storyline was only in the beginning stages. I think a lot of what they initially had planned for this character may have changed as the story has gone along. As I said, I'm kind of learning everyday and not really knowing where the story is going. Once we get off the island and back into Oakdale, who I'll be involved with, I have no idea. Every single day is kind of flying by the seat of your pants a little, but that makes it exciting at the same time because you don't plan too much. You don't have any idea in your mind of what you want to do. You just kind of play each moment as it comes.

CBS.com: Do you know anything about Simon's relationship with his sister Celia?

PAUL LEYDEN: Again, no background information. We have no idea where we come from. [Laughs] It's all a little bit up in the air. It's sort of what you make of it on the day. I think Fiona [Hutchison, Celia] obviously had her ideas about their relationship, so it seemed pretty dysfunctional. I don't think they get along. Something happened in the past for them to be sort of mortal enemies.

CBS.com: It seems like you enjoy working with Martha.

PAUL LEYDEN: Oh, I love it. It's a great job; it's a terrific show. I think there are some really fantastic actors on the show. Out of all daytime soaps, I think this is one of the better-acted shows on TV. To get the opportunity to work with Martha is fantastic. Not only do I love working with her as an actor, but she's a great personality. She has made my transition to New York 100 times easier than it could have been. She's great. We get along like a house on fire. We have a very similar sense of humor, which is a pretty dirty sense of humor. I can't speak highly enough of her. She's terrific.

CBS.com: How was it to work with Martha playing Rose as opposed to Lily?

PAUL LEYDEN: It was great because it was probably a little more Martha than Lily. [Laughs] You saw these flashes come through in Rose and you're like, "That's just like talking to Martha in her dressing room!" I love working with Rose because I can see how much fun Martha was having with it as well. I can't wait to work with Rose again because [Martha] has delineated those characters so well. They're two such different people that when I finally got to work with Rose, it was seriously like working with a different actress. Lily and Rose are just kind of worlds apart. [Martha] has obviously done so much work, and it's really paying off in the fact that the characters are different. Which gives me something to work off, too. I don't have to pretend that I'm working with a different person, because it's really obvious that it is.

CBS.com: What are your hopes for Simon's storyline?

PAUL LEYDEN: I don't know. I don't think that people on screen know who he really is. It's all a cover. Every time Lily tries to talk to him about his past life, he gets off it. No one's been able to get close to him. So, I guess my hope is that the relationship with Lily will bring something out in him. I think that will completely settle him as a person and make him kind of a more loveable character than he is now.

CBS.com: You haven't had the opportunity to work with much of the cast. Who would you like to work with?

PAUL LEYDEN: As I said, I'm working with Martha, so I have no complaints whatsoever. But I guess for the show and the storylines and to keep this character going, he's going to have to be integrated into Oakdale. If that's the case, I'd love to be involved somehow with Terri's [Conn] character Katie and Trent [Dawson, Henry]. I think add Simon into that mix and it can be kind of fun. [Laughs]

CBS.com: We've gotten some letters saying Simon should hook up with Julia.

PAUL LEYDEN: Oh, yeah. Again, I wouldn't complain if they hooked me up with Annie [Parisse]. That's fine. She's very cute. She's a great girl.

CBS.com: What do you do when you're not at the ATWT studio?

PAUL LEYDEN: At the moment, I've had a lot of people visiting from Australia. So it's been good to do some kind of touristy things and get out and about and kind of discover the city with someone who doesn't really know it either. When I don't have visitors in town, I pretend I'm a local and just do normal things - eat, sleep and go to work. When I have visitors in town, that's when I kind of get out and about and really explore the city. I've met some really terrific actors and filmmakers in town. I do a lot of writing. I've written a feature and I'm halfway through another one and I've just finished two short films.

CBS.com: Have you always been interested in writing?

PAUL LEYDEN: I've always had a passion for it, since I was way back in primary school. I didn't have the opportunity [to write] when I first got over here because I didn't have my computer. Since I've kind of settled here now and I got a laptop, I'm really right back into that now, which is good. It's another creative outlet from the show. I'd love to be able to get into some theater here and meet some people in the independent film scene because that's ultimately where my passion is - film. To be able to meet some great people in that field and work when I'm not on the show would be perfect.

CBS.com: Tell me about the feature you just wrote.

PAUL LEYDEN: It's kind of a psychological thriller. It's a young and funky, urban based psychological thriller, bit of a love triangle. It's like Fight Club meets The Game.

CBS.com: That sounds cool!

PAUL LEYDEN: It's pretty cool, actually.

CBS.com: Do you go to the movies often?

PAUL LEYDEN: I probably go to movies more than I should. Especially here in New York. All the big movies come out to Australia, but here you just have the opportunity to see a new film opening every week and it's great. I try to get to about two movies a week because I love seeing films, even if they're not that good. I love watching films and watching actors and what they're doing. It's good escapism for a couple of hours. Gets me off the streets!

CBS.com: What is the best movie you've seen recently?

PAUL LEYDEN: It definitely wasn't Mission Impossible II. That was really disappointing because it was shot in Sydney as well. The one that I've kind of enjoyed the most recently was High Fidelity with John Cusack. I had read the book beforehand and it was a really, really good, close adaptation to the book. I went and saw Shaft recently and that was fun. It was good to see an Australian actor like Toni Collette doing really well.

CBS.com: I understand you dabble in music as well.

PAUL LEYDEN: Yeah. Not to as great a degree as I used to when I was younger. When I went through secondary school, I played the sax and was in lots of bands. Then I went through one of those weird early twenties periods when you get involved in things you shouldn't and you run out of money. [Laughs] So, I sold my saxophone, which was a nice, beautiful, incredible instrument. It was a great, great saxophone. I haven't gotten around to buying another one since. That's another thing I want to do when I'm here. I play the guitar as well. I was actually going to do that this week, go out and get a guitar and take some singing lessons and get back into that side of things as well. If I've got the time, I might as well. I want to milk this city for what it's worth while I'm here.